The Geology in Geopolitics: Archipelagic Studies and Subterranean Territorial Claims in Argentine and Chilean Antarctica

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 2:10 PM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton)
Ryan C. Edwards, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Chile and Argentina are divided by the Andes Mountains. In the southern Tierra del Fuego archipelago, the topographies of these two nations, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, converge to form an intricate series of islands, mountains, and channelways. The region has caused numerous border disputes since the mid-1800s as the land simply does not cooperate with legible physical boundaries. These disputes have been reduced to traditional geo-politics. However, in the early- and mid-twentieth century, both nations constructed polar nationalisms by noting continuities in the physical geography between their southern regions and Antarctica. Submerged valleys and oceanic mountains, they argued, stretched across and under the archipelago to the Antarctica, claiming that the geological formations signified territorial authority. While geology has been a science used by nations and empires for economic gain through resource extraction, in southern Latin America it became a science that justified sovereignty and national identity, creating a polar Latino world. Chilean and Argentine writers and nationalists, as well as locals, wrote extensively on the region, ruminating on the character of this peripheral landscape. These are not simply reflections on the landscape of the “end of the world.” Rather, they are deeper understandings of the relationship between space and national identity, and in particular, how vertical geographies and national histories coincide. This paper focuses less on the geopolitics of the region, and instead thinks through the geontology of the archipelago. Does the framework of borderland capture the relationship between people and land in the southern stretches of the Southern Cone? Or does the break from continental South America constitute its own space, one that requires a different theorization to understand a polar archipelagic Latin America?
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation